Monday, November 06, 2006

From the Chaplain to a Tangent

We finally had our first class with the infamous chaplain today. It actually kept me more interested than most of the classes we've had here (possibly because I didn't quite agree with everything), but it still dragged towards the end. Today was the first time in a while that we didn't actually get done until after 5. Basically, even though lunch is only scheduled from 12 to 1, and class is scheduled until 5, we expect to be released for lunch by 11:30, and to leave for the day no later than 4. So far, it seems like the one thing all of my limited military experiences have in common is everyone's desire to leave early. I have had other jobs before, and I admit, I engaged in clock watching in all of them on occasion, but it was never this bad. Since I was being paid by the hour, leaving early wouldn't actually have benefited me that much, but the fact is I had more freedom in those jobs than I do here. That, plus I really like money, and in high school, I worked in the bookkeeping office of a grocery store.

The chaplain's class was about ethics and morals. He managed to insult one LT within the first five minutes of class, asking him if he was different when at the mall vs. in uniform. When the guy said that he stayed true to himself, the chaplain said, "but your pants aren't hanging down, and you aren't wearing earrings." He then implied that this was something he saw many youngsters of today doing but the fact that he made this statement to a black man certainly didn't help in the "the chaplain is actually a nice guy" campaign.

For a large part of the first hour, we discussed the perceptions of soldiers, and how the Army's doctrines are designed to help people internalize their new and improved Army-provided values. That's when I realized why I'm having so many issues here. I am actively fighting against internalizing any of this stuff. I still see myself as an English major first, future academic, feminist, liberal, and only somewhere after that does the label/title Army officer come into play for me. There was also a list of questions such as what do "fill in the blank" expect of officers/you (some examples were the public, chain of command, religion), and the chaplain called on random people to answer the questions. He never called on me, but in response to parents, one person answered, "honor and hard work." I think I would have said, "my parents expect me to continue to pursue my education, not get killed, be safe and go to grad school (because that's what I want, they aren't exerting any kind of pressure on me)." Similarly, my answer to what I expect of myself, "Not to lose my identity in the Army, not to lose sight of my goals, and to maintain my writing skills, and desire for education." Obviously, I want to be a good leader and do the best I can while I'm in the Army, but I see the next few years as more of a hurdle than anything else.

We also got yet another assignment out of the whole deal: a three to five page paper about ethics/values/etc. One of them has to be a story about a value that we got from the civilian world, and another one has to be about an Army value, and how it has affected us in ROTC/BOLC/OBC. The chaplain said he was generous with the due date, giving us a whole two four day weekends to work on it - excuse me, sir, do you seriously expect me to work on this over Thanksgiving? Seriously. (Any Grey's Anatomy fans out there?) Half the reason I even applied for the ROTC scholarship is because I thought it would be easier than writing a bunch of essays about who inspired me and what the most important moment of my life was, and what I value. I can't write those kinds of papers, and it seemed like half the scholarships had those types of topics. I never have been able to make up that kind of BS. I can analyze a novel, but sappy, corny reflections on my life - ain't happening. I just am. Period. If I'd known I was going to have to do this crap in the Army, I would have just applied for those scholarships and saved myself a lot of trouble (I'm kidding - for the most part).

Also, when I signed my contract, we were only in Afghanistan, so being deployed wasn't nearly as likely as it is today. And at 18, the Army thing appealed to me for some reason. Obviously, the lack of war in Iraq made it look better then than it does now, but I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life at 18. Why not join the Army? Unfortunately, in ROTC, you don't make a four year commitment for that time in your life - you make a commitment for the person you are going to be four years later. A lot can change in four years. When it comes right down to it, it's an eight year commitment because at 18, I decided what I would be doing with my life up to the age of 26, and given my personality, there was no backing out. (In theory, I could have decided to quit ROTC up until the first day of sophomore year without any repercussions given the scholarship I was on, but once I'd signed the contract, I felt obligated and committed so there was no way I would have left the program. I'm just too damn dependable, even if I bitch about it a lot.) Here's the funny part: I also thought it would be a nice way to avoid entering the real world directly after college - once again, no war. I don't know why I never even considered grad school my first few semesters in college, but it might be a sign just how wrong history was for me: I didn't want to do all that research and write a thesis or dissertation about a historical topic. On the other hand, I can't wait to figure out my topic for my English dissertation and get started on that. Of course, history will also play a role in an English paper for context, especially given my current interests but I like history much more when it's combined with cultural analysis. Honestly, I don't think the history department at my school was necessarily that good.

I definitely didn't intend for this entry to end up here. I seem to be very good at going off on a tangent, and getting bitter and depressing. I also don't mean to scare anyone off from the military; I just think people need to be more aware of what they are getting into than I was.

1 comment:

CG said...

Did you not realize you were joining the "Army" and not the Peace Corps? Geeze...